Stone Cold Bastards, страница 1
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Stone Cold Bastards
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About the Author
Stone Cold Bastards
Bell Bridge Books
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.
Bell Bridge Books
PO BOX 300921
Memphis, TN 38130
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-933417-60-8
Print ISBN: 978-1-61194-719-9
Bell Bridge Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.
Copyright © 2017 by Jake Bible
Published in the United States of America.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
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Cover design: Debra Dixon
Interior design: Hank Smith
Gargoyle (manipulated) © Alfonsodetomas | Dreamstime.com
Background (manipulated) © Mega11 | Dreamstime.com
Morty & The Last Stonecutter
THE SMALL, GRAY head popped off and rolled toward the end of the bar. It slowed, then stopped by the puddle of sticky, congealed blood covering the faux teak, laminated surface.
“Mmm hmm.” The man, the one eating the now eviscerated squirrel, the one happily slurping up the tiny intestines like bloody pasta, glanced up from his meal. He frowned, choked down the bite he had just taken, and squinted into the weak light of the approaching dawn. “Which one are you?” he asked, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
The squirrel-eater was maybe early thirties, emaciated—full-blown junkie chic minus the chic part. His brown hair was a tangled mess, matching the scraggly, bloody beard that sprouted from his cheeks and chin in malnourished patches. The piece-of-junk bar holding his meal leaned to the left, and had sunk a good few inches into the mud and muck of the trampled grass surrounding the high, wrought-iron enclosure the bar faced.
The man leaned back in the bar stool. The cracked Naugahyde’s creaking and groaning was the only sound in the still morning air other than the man’s quick licking of his lips. He rested an arm on the back of the stool and stared at the shape that stood on the opposite side of the iron fence.
“Not gonna tell me?” the man asked, sucking the tips of each finger, one by one. “You afraid that if I have your name I’ll have control over you? That it?”
“You’re new,” the shape replied, a low chuckle bubbling up behind the words.
“Maybe,” the man said.
“No, that wasn’t a question,” the shape said. “You’re new. Just out of Hell?”
“He is,” a new voice said from the massive iron gate only a few feet away. “His name is Anzu and I do not like him at all, Morty. Very rude fella, he is.”
“Sorry, Jack,” Morty, the shape, said to the gate. “He been out there all night?”
“He has,” Jack replied.
“That thing,” Anzu said and nodded at the gate’s two foot diameter face, also made of iron. “What is that? A Green Man?”
“I am,” Jack replied. He glared back at Anzu. “A Jack O’ The Wood, to be exact.”
“A jack o’ the off, to be exact,” Anzu laughed, spraying the disgusting surface of the weathered bar with spittle and squirrel bits.
“Sumerian,” Morty guessed, still only a shape in the early morning gloom. “Am I right?”
There was a flash of light, and Morty’s face became visible as he put a Zippo to the nub of a cigar clamped between his lips. Lips made of stone, hard and cracked. In the brief light thrown by the flame, it was obvious that Morty was far from human. His features were chiseled, literally, from granite.
“Hey, look at you.” Anzu laughed some more. “Ain’t you just the typical gargoyle. All fangs and wings and claws and shit. Where’d you come from, eh? Where’d that other one go? The little guy hiding in the grass?”
“He’s off. My turn at watch,” Morty said around his cigar, giving it a good, long puff to fully light the end.
“Watch. Watch, watch, watch. Watching,” Anzu said and nodded. “Watching me?” Morty didn’t reply. “Yeah. Watching me. Damn, look at you. They don’t make ’em uglier, do they?”
“Grotesque,” Morty replied, snapping his Zippo closed. The tip of his cigar nub glowed cherry red then died back to a brick umber, casting just enough light to see a heavy cheek here, a shadowed jaw there.
“Yeah, that’s what I’m saying,” Anzu responded as he tore back into the squirrel corpse, ripping off a back leg and crunching down on it like it was a mouthful of nachos. “Grotesque. Ugly as all hell.”
“Yeah, you’re new,” Morty said and leaned against the fence. “Grotesque is what I am. Not a gargoyle, a grotesque.”
“Huh?” Anzu asked. “What’s that?”
“There is a difference,” Morty explained. “Gargoyles are water spouts. Set into the corners of buildings to guide rainwater away from the stonework and foundation below. If the building had a moat, then the gargoyle would be large enough to divert the water out into the moat. Otherwise they would usually be aimed at a cistern or water barrel.”
“What are you telling me? There’s a difference?” Anzu asked.
“You’re Sumerian, right?” Morty asked.
“Yeah, so?” Anzu replied.
“Is there a difference between a Sumerian demon and an Assyrian demon?” Morty asked.
“Shit, yeah, there’s a difference,” Anzu snorted. He choked until he hawked up a hunk of squirrel flesh from out his nose. Splat. He stared down at it.
“Do not,” Jack begged. “Please do not do what I believe you will—”
Anzu picked up the snotty hunk and popped it into his mouth.
“Oh, he did it,” Jack whispered. “I
“Toad? You’re a hungry one,” Morty said.
“I eat,” Anzu replied and shrugged. “So, what’s this about Assyrian demons? Why do you care about that lot? Bunch of goat buggerers, if you ask me.”
“I don’t care about Assyrian demons,” Morty said. “Or about Sumerian demons. I was making a point that there’s a difference between a gargoyle and a grotesque, just like there is a difference between a Sumerian and an Assyrian demon.”
“You lost me,” Anzu said. “You’re all grotesque. Ugly as sin.” He giggled. “Maybe not that ugly. I have performed some sins that would crack your stone face in half, let me tell you.”
“He told me,” Jack said. “They are not pretty stories. I asked him to stop, but he would not. I do detest the new ones.”
“He’s not so bright, is he?” Morty asked Jack. “They must be getting desperate to send an idiot demon like him to watch our little piece of the world.”
“No need to get personal, friend,” Anzu said. He belched and patted his stomach. “Uh, oh. Feels like squirrel doesn’t sit well with this vessel.”
“I told you that,” Jack said. “I specifically said that you needed to cook the meat first or there would be consequences.”
“Cook? Like with fire?” Anzu said. He shook his head and gave Jack a wry smile. “Not gonna happen, green man. I just got out of a pit of fire; no way I’m ever starting one on purpose during my tour above.”
“What I am trying to educate you on,” Morty continued, returning to the previous conversation, “is that what you would normally call a gargoyle is actually a grotesque. A depiction of a human or animal form carved into the stone of a building.”
“Yeah, a gargoyle. Same thing,” Anzu said. “I’ve been through the orientation. We all have to go through it before they let us take a shift here.” He patted the bar. “Not that this is a choice gig. I mean, look around, I’m stuck at a rotting, moldy bar probably yanked from some suburban basement, plopped here in a muddy meadow at the top of a hill in the middle of banjo land.”
“It came from a recreational warehouse store,” Jack said.
“What?” Anzu replied.
“The bar,” Jack said. “It came from a recreational warehouse store. I was here when they brought it. It was much nicer then.”
“I don’t care where the bar came from,” Anzu snapped. “All I care about is doing my time so maybe I get transferred to one of the cities or something. See some real action. Have some real fun.” He belched and farted. “Get me a body that isn’t gonna keel over any second.”
The sky had begun to turn light pink and the gray of early morning was slowly fading. Morty shaking his head in disgust was much easier to see than he would have been only a couple of minutes before. It was also easier to see the scowl on Anzu’s face as Morty turned his back on the demon-possessed man and leaned heavily against the bars of the wrought-iron fence.
“What? You’re going to ignore me now?” Anzu snapped.
He picked up the mutilated squirrel and threw it at the fence. What was left of the tiny corpse split in two and the bloody rib cage smacked into a stone shoulder. There was the bright glow of the cigar butt, a huge cloud of bluish smoke, but no visible response from Morty to the assault.
“Grotesque, gargoyle, whatever,” Anzu said, flapping a bloody hand at the huge stone building that sat two acres beyond the iron fence. “It don’t matter none. This is all just a waiting game. We each do our time until one of us makes a move.”
“If you say so,” Morty replied, back still against the fence. He causally brushed at a spot on his shoulder where a stray piece of squirrel fur was stuck. The fur floated down to the ground, lost in the calf-high grass that filled the acreage on Morty’s side of the fence. “You’ll learn.”
“You will,” Jack agreed.
“I’ll learn? I’ll learn what?” Anzu asked. His body shook and he crumpled across the surface of the bar for a second before slowly pushing himself upright. “Forget it. I’m off shift. Harass the next guy, will ya? I don’t need your crap. Just gonna do my time and move on.”
“If you say so,” Morty repeated.
“I do!” Anzu snapped, jumping from the bar stool and onto his feet. He grimaced in pain as his facial features blurred for half a second. “Damn. Why does the shift change have to hurt?”
“Because you have chosen to possess a body that does not belong to you,” Jack said. “The pain you feel is the physical manifestation of the violation you have perpetrated on an innocent human being.”
“No such thing, green man,” Anzu said then coughed hard and collapsed into the muddy grass.
Morty smoked his cigar and waited. Three seconds later, the body stirred and issued a long, exhausted moan. Morty turned around, took the cigar out of his mouth, carefully snuffed it out in his palm so as not to crush it, then placed the butt back between his lips.
“That you, Todd?” Morty asked.
“It’s me,” the man whispered. He turned his head and bloodshot eyes tried to focus, failed, tried again, failed once more, then turned away from where Morty stood. “I don’t feel so well.”
“New guy,” Morty said. “He’s been eating all night.”
“All night?” the no-longer-possessed Todd asked. “Like what?”
“Squirrel,” Jack said. “Good morning, Todd.”
Todd groaned and clutched at his belly. “Feels like more than squirrel.”
“Possibly a toad or two,” Jack said.
“Sorry, pal,” Morty said. “Gonna be a long day for your body and whatever other demon they send to fill it.”
“No shit,” Todd said and groaned again. “Oh, man, do me a favor and tell the next asshole to at least pull down my pants and squat? I don’t want to wake up to trousers filled with crap tonight.”
“I will. I’ll be sure and have the next on watch ask, too,” Morty said, shrugging his massive, stone shoulders. The sun was cresting the hill and the hint of folded wings could almost be seen. “But you know demons.”
“Intimately,” Todd said. He sighed as his body shook with gastrointestinal discomfort. “And good morning, Jack. Sorry I didn’t say it before.”
“No apologies needed, Mr. Birdgman,” Jack replied. “You are in an unenviable position.”
“What’d you learn?” Morty asked, his granite eyes locked onto Todd as the man struggled to get to his feet. He waited for Todd to stabilize himself with a hand on the edge of the bar before asking again. “What’d you learn?”
“New demon named Anzu,” Todd answered, slumping into the bar stool. “Fresh out of Hell.”
“I know that,” Morty said. “I had to chat with him until he left for the shift change. What’d you learn about out there?” Morty waved a rocky hand at the horizon. “What’s going on in the weird, wide world?”
Todd closed his eyes, squirmed in his seat until he was semi-comfortable, then shook his head.
“New York is lost,” Todd answered after a few minutes of slow, deep breathing. “Last cathedral went down yesterday.”
“What?” Morty exclaimed, the cigar butt nearly dropping from his mouth. He repositioned it and frowned, heavy stone brows dropping low and knitting in the middle. “How’d they manage that?”
“Found some humans not possessed and suckered them into leading the attack,” Todd replied. “Took out St. Luke’s in less than an hour once the gargoyles were removed.”
“Grotesques didn’t put up a fight?” Morty asked, his stone-cut features shocked at the revelation.
“I don’t know,” Todd said. “Those details weren’t in the new guy’s mind.”
“I would assume the assault was similar to Boston or Paris,” Jack said. “Once the gargoyles were dest
Todd shrugged, wincing at the simple movement. “Probably.”
“New York,” Morty mused. “They’re winning.”
“You think?” Todd asked and laughed, wincing again as a groan of discomfort overtook his sarcasm. His hands went to his belly. “Oh, man, here it comes.”
He hopped down from the stool and hurried away from the bar. Behind him, toward the base of the hill, was a thicket of large oaks. He rushed down the hill, slipping and sliding in the wet grass as he went.
“Tell the next shift to lay off the critters!” Todd called over his shoulder. His bowels had begun to let loose several yards before he reached the oaks, but he kept going until he was lost in leafy shadow. “Please!”
“Will do, Todd!” Morty called after the man, but there was no response except the faint sound of a mess being made.
“Poor man,” Jack said. “He is forced to endure so much hardship and indignity.”
Morty didn’t respond. He kept his eyes on the spot where Todd had disappeared. After close to half an hour, the man appeared once more. He walked with his back erect and eyes staring at Morty. He slowly made his way up the hill and took a seat at the bar.
“Good Morning, Mordecai,” the man said and nodded. Then shifted his gaze to the gate. “Jack.” He looked up at the brightening sky. His stomach gurgled with painful intensity, but he didn’t show any discomfort on his face. “Looks to be a beautiful day.”
“Valac?” Morty asked. When the demon-possessed man nodded, Morty continued, “What brings you to Todd today? Sitting watch isn’t usually your gig.”
“No, it is not,” Valac said. His stomach gurgled again and that time he showed it. “But, apparently this vessel was disused last night, so management thought it would be wise to have someone of my stature inhabit the body while it repairs itself.”
“If you say so,” Morty replied.